GREENWICH, Conn. – Jack Foster is carrying the ball for a team of Greenwich fifth-graders raising money to benefit an orphanage in Haiti. Two professional football players from Stamford joined the North Mianus School students Monday to help Jack and his classmates tackle their task.
Jack is spearheading a drive to raise funds for Be Like Brit, which is building an orphanage in Haiti. The group is named for Britney Gengel, a Massachusetts native, who was killed in an earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. She was visiting the country with a group from Lynn University in Florida in a program called Journey For Hope to help feed the nation’s poor children.
“They love us so much and everyone is so happy,’’ Gengel, 19, wrote in a text message to her family shortly before she died. “They love what they have, and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.”
Jack learned of the organization through his father, Shawn. When the students in teacher Allison Daly’s class were asked to select a charity to support, Jack chose Be Like Brit. He and other students on his team have been selling bracelets for $3 and construction bricks for $10. Jack hopes to earn $5,000 in his team’s fundraising effort.
“I felt like I needed to help out with the charity, because if we don’t, they’re not going to be able to build the orphanage,’’ Jack said. “The students are really behind it. They want to meet Vlad, too.”
Vladimir Ducasse, a former Stamford High football star and a member of the New York Jets, is a native of Haiti. He moved to Stamford when he was 14 and played football under coach Kevin Jones before playing for the University of Massachusetts. The Jets selected him in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft.
Alex Joseph, another former Stamford football player, has played in the NFL and will play in the Canadian Football League this year. He also has roots in Haiti. Family members of both football players were killed in the earthquake, in which an estimated 316,000 people died.
The orphanage will have 33 rooms for boys and girls when construction is completed later this year, according to Britney's mother, Cherylann, who also attended Monday's event at the school. Jack and his father, who were aware of the players' roots in Haiti, invited the players.
“It’s great seeing so many people having an interest in this,’’ Ducasse said. “You can tell that they researched this and they know what’s going on.” Added Joseph: “It shows a lot of people who come from different backgrounds really want to do their part to help out.”
Ducasse donated an autographed football, which will be awarded to the student who raises the most money. Children excitedly requested autographs from the players. “You want me to sign your shoes?” Ducasse asked one girl.
Shawn Foster, who played football with Jones at Central Connecticut State University, said his son has always had a philanthropic streak. “We’ll drive by a homeless person, and he’ll want to get out and give him money,’’ Shawn said. “He just loves to give to people.”